Providing habitat for small game vitally important in winter
Wintertime is perfect for expanding local wildlife habitat, especially for small game and other mammals, and an array of songbirds, by building and refreshing brushpiles.
Mounds of sticks, fallen limbs, trimmed evergreen branches, and just about any other woody or shrubby materials at hand can be heaped up to form what is an almost immediate wildlife-magnet.
My sons and I have been building brushpiles, and renewing them as they deplete with age, for 45 years in my creek bottom. I have seen them used by just about every common mammal, especially rabbits, but also raccoons, skunks, opossums, mink, mice, and voles and more. Some brushpiles, if large enough with enough heavier limbs and fallen trees, even might attract red fox or coyotes for dens.
All manner of songbirds also perch and nest and hide in the tangles as well. Over time, blackberry and black raspberry brambles, wild rose, and other berry and seed-plants will sprout around and weave through the edges, providing attractive tidbits of nutrition to glean.
In my experience it seems preferable to start by laying down larger-diameter limbs and branches and such, piled up crisscross-wise, as a base for a new pile. That gives some open-space inside for denning and nesting. Then randomly pile on the sticks, twigs, and smaller materials. It may take a few weeks for it all to settle down and “thicken,” but it won’t be long before a new brushpile is used.
My son, Andy, and his two boys, my grandsons Michael and Patrick, recently assembled some new brushpiles when Andy cleared out some woody shrubs, especially pestiferous Asian bush honeysuckle, to help expand from important grassy cover being used for bedding, feeding, and cover for deer, wild turkeys, and small game. One pile was in sight of a trail-camera, which captured the results.
Within an hour after Andy was done for the day, two deer were browsing the renewed clearing, including nibbling the fresh-cut twig-ends on the pile. At dark, a rabbit could be seen entering the new pile, and exiting an hour later. In subsequent days, rabbits were captured on-camera entering and exiting the pile regularly, with raccoons seen nosing around at night. Success!
Tracks and bird-perching sign after recent snowfalls confirm that the trail-cam is not lying. Wildlife loves the shelter and seasonal food provided by brushpiles. Just like the line from the popular movie, “Field of Dreams,” if you build it, they will come.
Cutline: Andy Pollick, and his sons Michael and Patrick, recently cleared some brush on grandpa’s homestead to make shelter for small mammals.